Greetings, Internet Stranger, and welcome to a perfect 24 hours on a Tortola Shore Excursion. Even those who have been cruising for years, like yours truly, might not be familiar with Tortola. But that’s what this itinerary is here for! Consider this your passport to all that Tortola goodness.
For starters, Tortola is the largest of the British Virgin Islands, which means technically Queen Elizabeth II is the boss of you when you visit Tortola. For seconds, Tortola is full of gorgeous beaches, amazing flora and fauna, and so much more. After going on this Tortola shore excursion with me, I’m sure you’ll agree that Tortola deserves to be better known among the cruising set.\
Tortola Shore Excursion
How To Get There
Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you a box of the finest rum. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you exactly how to get from your home to the Caribbean.
But I can tell you that I used a lovely airplane to get from my hometown NYC to London, and then I took a shorter flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where my cruise was docked. I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flight to the Caribbean at the best time of day.
You can even use Expedia to rent a car so you’ll be all set when you arrive at your destination. (I can’t drive, but if you can, this must be helpful.)
Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight, so you can head out on your Tortola shore excursion ASAP.
Tortola Shore Excursion
Where To Stay?
Since this is a Tortola shore excursion, we’ll be returning to our cruise ship in the evening, so we won’t book a hotel. Instead, you’ll need to book a cruise itinerary that includes a stop in Tortola. I always cruise with Royal Caribbean because I get loyalty points, and I’ve become an expert in their ways. Plus, they do great towel animals!
Tortola Shore Excursion
What to Pack
- Cute sandals because you’ll definitely need them for those Tortola beaches.
- An umbrella that will keep the raindrops away in case there’s a cloud or two on your Tortola shore excursion.
- A cell charger so you won’t have your cell die on you just when you are taking pictures of Tortola’s beautiful flowers.
- The best travel adapter just in case you are American or from the EU and need to plug in your cell phone while you’re in Tortola. (It’s the UK, remember!)
- A fabulous vintage swimsuit for lying out on Tortola’s glorious beaches.
- A great spray sunscreen that you can definitely apply yourself even if you fly solo on your Tortola shore excursion.
- My favorite guidebook to the British Virgin Islands
- There’s nothing like being in the Caribbean for making you think about rum, which always makes me think about pirates. Why not check out Treasure Island, which some believe was inspired by the British Virgin Islands? Or there’s always Muppet Treasure Island, if you’re not up for reading a whole book.
- I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age, and you don’t want to get stranded in a foreign country without help. You never know when extreme weather will strike or some other emergency. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by deranged sentient coconuts on your Tortola shore excursion.
Tortola Shore Excursion
Morning: Tortola Shore Excursion Drive
I always chose to take a shore excursion through Royal Caribbean when I cruise because you can get off the ship first, and if something goes wrong, Royal Caribbean has to wait for you until you get back to the ship. They can’t leave without you!
The available shore excursions vary from trip to trip, but I suggest getting a Tortola shore excursion with a scenic drive, so you can get the amazing views, and a beach stop, so you can chillax with some sand and rum.
Our guide was a local who explained to us that Tortola is still a British territory, so they have access to the famous British National Health Service, which he seemed super pumped about. As an American, I have to say that I was jealous. And you’ll be jealous too, when I show you…
Three Fun Facts: Tortola Shore Excursion
1) What is there to see on Tortola?
Well, for starters, you get these amazing views! Our driver took us all around the island so we could see what a glorious natural setting Tortola has. He said that the islands had been damaged in a hurricane, so you could see the rebuilding process going on.
One interesting thing to note is that you can see a prison on an island in the distance. Our guide said that the prisoners get some of the best views in the world. He also kept referring to the prison as Her Majesty’s prison. (See! I told you that Queen Elizabeth II rules this island with a fist of iron!)
The British Virgin Islands are also very close to the US Virgin Islands, and on a clear day you can see St. Thomas. (No, you can’t see St. Thomas in my photo above, but it’s still a great view, isn’t it?)
2) What About the BEACH?
I hear that, Internet Stranger! What’s a Tortola shore excursion without the beach? Our driver dropped us off at Cane Garden Bay Beach, which is probably the busiest beach on Tortola. But because Tortola isn’t too touristic, that means it still isn’t nearly as crowded as some beaches you’ll find on other Caribbean islands.
I was traveling with an older couple who didn’t like beaches, and they still found plenty to do here: shopping, drinking, I think mostly shopping. But you might want to bring a towel and relax on the sands staring at that perfect pale blue water. Or rent a beach chair if you’re feeling fancy! I don’t think you need a lesson on how to enjoy a beach, do you?
3) Are There any cultural experiences?
Sure! Just a short walk from the beach is the Callwood Distillery, which is one of the oldest distilleries in the Caribbean. They still make rum from cane sugar here, so you can taste rum like your friendly neighborhood pirates would have enjoyed. They offer a sample tasting for a low price, and then they have bottles of rum available for purchase. (Royal Caribbean will insist that you check these bottles until the end of your cruise when you return to your ship.)
Our guide also showed us these lovely Fahie Hill murals depicting traditional life on the British Virgin Islands with local dances and food. They were all lovely, but this one was my favorite because the chickens are so cute. I can’t always be full of deep thoughts.
Tortola Shore Excursion
Afternoon: Explore Tortola
Once your driver takes you back to the cruise port, you’ll have the rest of the afternoon on your Tortola shore excursion to explore. The cruise port in Tortola actually had a nice, relaxing vibe when I was there because there weren’t too many ships in port. But we will not stay in the port the entire time! Instead we will head out for…
Approximately Top 5: Tortola Shore Excursion
1) Lunch at Mac’s
You’ll probably be hungry after returning from the scenic drive, so stop and get something local and yummy to eat at Mac’s, located in the cruise port. I know the food doesn’t look gorgeous in my picture, but it was super tasty. And it’s always a positive sign when you stop at a restaurant in the Caribbean and find mostly locals eating there.
I recommend getting one of their homemade baked dishes like this luscious bacon and mushroom quiche. Then take it outside with a ginger beer and enjoy a lively musical performance. The perfect lunch in Tortola, IMO!
Don’t worry about getting dessert. That will come later.
Tortola has tons of shops, like any other cruise port, and some of them are surprisingly not tacky. This locally made seagrape jelly sure did a lot to liven up my Greek yogurt breakfasts back home, let me tell you.
And this colorful photo from the Allamanda Gallery is now brightening up my wall. (The store sells the work of a locally-based photographer who takes gorgeous pictures of the BVI.)
Of course, buying jewelry in the Caribbean is always tons of fun, especially with the lack of taxes and duty. These earrings are made with a stone called Larimar that comes from the Dominican Republic, but is popular all over the Caribbean. I liked these because Tortola makes me think of turtles, even though technically it means the land of the turtle dove.
Just make sure to buy jewelry only from places that can prove the stones are authentic. Getting ripped off is definitely not how you want to spend your afternoon off!
3) JR O’Neal Botanical Garden
The JR O’Neal Botanical Garden is a medium-sized walk from the Pier Park, about 20 minutes, and it’s a highlight of any Tortola shore excursion. You’ll be able to escape the crowds and relax here with a good book for just a small fee. (It’s cash only, but they did take US currency when I was there. And they’ll certainly take the pound, after all, you are in the UK here! The Queen sees all!)
The plants here range from actual cacti…
to colorful blooms
If you’re looking to get a little off the beaten track on your Tortola shore excursion, this is the place to go!
4) La Dolce Vita
La Dolce Vita is a fantastic gelato restaurant conveniently in between the Botanical Garden and the Pier Park by where the cruise ship is docked. Like the Botanical Garden, this is another hidden gem that everyone on your cruise ship won’t know about.
Just drop in here for one of their authentic and creamy flavors. I got the cookie flavor because the lady behind the counter said it was their most popular. It was properly thick, just like gelato is supposed to be, and perfectly refreshing on a hot Tortola day.
Tortola Shore Excursion
Evening: Dinner at Giovanni’s Table
We’ll be back on the cruise ship for dinner, and while you can always have a nice meal in Royal Caribbean’s main dining room, sometimes it’s fun to mix it up and get a meal at one of the specialty restaurants. We just had some gelato, so let’s keep the Italian theme going at Giovanni’s Table.
I started with the baked scallops, which look a little sad in my photo, but were actually quite tasty. The waiter said that usually the food at Giovanni’s Table is served family-style, but since I was on my own and not with a family, they’d give me smaller portions so I could try more things. That’s service I can appreciate!
Also, hilariously enough, a family I know from back home in New York City ended up being on the same cruise ship and randomly seated next to me that evening, so I could have eaten family style after all.
Steak is usually one of the things Royal Caribbean does best, so I ordered a small steak with garlic fries and broccoli rabe. The steak and broccoli rabe were great, but I preferred the little creamy half-portion of mushroom risotto that they gave me to the garlic fries, which were not so garlicky.
If you’re looking for how much to eat at Giovanni’s Table, I say one appetizer, one main, a half-pasta, and dessert is quite a satisfying meal.
And speaking of dessert, the waitress insisted I needed to try both the tiramisu and the chocolate hazelnut cake, and why not? After all, they don’t charge you any more for two desserts than they do for one. And if you can’t indulge on a cruise ship, where can you indulge?
That’s a Perfect Tortola Shore Excursion!
What would you do on a Tortola shore excursion? How cute is this towel dog animal? And why is the rum gone? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have 24 hours with a Tortola shore excursion.